Stories from daily life
This story was featured in the December 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art December 2015 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story
New Mexico artist Shana Levenson is fond of saying that she paints in order to tell people’s stories. In some ways, this artistic mission harks back to her younger years, when she drew cartoons that told stories about her life. That interest eventually led to drawing caricatures of friends, then a bachelor’s degree in fashion merchandising from the University of Texas at Austin, and her current pursuit of a master’s degree in fine arts at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.
Levenson describes her current passion as creating “nontraditional portraits in traditional ways.” Her style, she says, is closely akin to social realism, and she is concentrating her creative efforts today on several series of paintings. One, titled Beyond Illness, is inspired by Levenson’s uncle, who died in 1992 of AIDS at the age of 28. Levenson still sees a lack of knowledge about the disease, and says that some people naively think they are safe because a pharmaceutical treatment “cocktail” exists. “I feel like this series will bring back the seriousness of the disease and the support that is still needed,” Levenson says.
In another series, the artist focuses on parenthood. As the mother of two small children, she conveys the challenging balancing act that is a part of her daily life as well as the lives of many others. The award-winning FAIRY GODMOTHER is a good example of a painting that captures a scene from Levenson’s life. “I felt like I was trying to entertain my children and work at the same time, which we sometimes have to do as parents,” she says. “On the back wall are paintings and drawings of my children’s actual work. This painting documents my life so clearly … being an artist and a mother intertwined.”
No matter who she is portraying, Levenson says her goal is to invite the viewer to spend time with a portrait even if, at first, they can’t relate to the story that inspired it. “Being able to create work that gives people pause and causes them to feel some emotion is powerful,” she says. —Bonnie Gangelhoff
Featured in the December 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
Southwest Art December 2015 print issue or digital download Or subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss a story!
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